Fiers powers Houston past Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Mike Fiers didn’t finish this start on the field. The Houston Astros didn’t jump up and down after the final out. There was no podium for the post-game media coverage, just a handful of reporters in the corner of the clubhouse.
This win was just as important, though, for a team trying to reach the postseason for the first time in 10 years.
Fiers followed his no-hitter with another stellar start for Houston, pitching into the seventh inning with three hits allowed for the first-place Astros in a 4-1 victory Saturday over the Minnesota Twins.
“You build off that, but you don’t think about what you did last start. It’s a different team, a different game,” Fiers said. “Just plan to wash it away and say, ‘Hey, today’s a different day.'”
Fiers (2-0) struck out five while surrendering one run, on a bases-loaded double-play grounder hit by Trevor Plouffe in the fourth. He left two on with none out in the seventh inning, but Will Harris struck out two of the next three batters to preserve the three-run padding.
Luis Valbuena hit a two-run double and Evan Gattis and Jake Marisnick had RBI singles against Mike Pelfrey (6-8), who has combined for only 13 2/3 innings over his last three starts.
“It’s a little bit of hit or miss right now as far as what we’re getting from those guys,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
Luke Gregerson pitched a perfect ninth for his 25th save.
Fiers, acquired a month ago in a trade with Milwaukee, threw 98 pitches. His command was wobbly at times, but pitched out of trouble. With a runner on third in the sixth, the right-hander with the jerky, exaggerated delivery and the sneaky slow curve reared back and blew a fastball by rookie slugger Miguel Sano to end that inning.
“Fiers wasn’t particularly sharp, which is hard to say after a game like that,” manager A.J. Hinch said.
Joe Mauer singled sharply to right field with no outs in the fourth for Minnesota’s first hit, perhaps prompting sighs of relief around the country by the surviving relatives of Johnny Vander Meer, the only pitcher to log consecutive no-hitters. That feat has stood since 1938.
Fiers plunked Plouffe with a pitch to start the seventh, after Plouffe reached the second deck with a fly ball that hooked foul. Eddie Rosario hit a single past the mound that Fiers, who fielded grounders for assists on three of the first seven outs, couldn’t quite stop with his bare hand.
That was enough for Hinch, who made clear before the game that Fiers would not come close to the 134 pitches he threw Aug. 21 to no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the Astros using a six-man rotation, Fiers had three extra days to rest for this.
“That extra rest after throwing so many pitches helped me out a lot,” Fiers said. “He didn’t have to do that, but with the way people are throwing he was able to push me back, plus we had the off day, so it worked out.”
The Twins went 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position.
“We just couldn’t get anything going,” Mauer said. “The way he’s throwing the ball, if we could have maybe gotten a couple early that would have maybe helped. But he threw another great game. It was a tough night.”
Gattis tried to get a double on his grounder down the third-base line in the third, but Rosario threw him out at second to end the inning, the left fielder’s 13th assist this season, leading all rookies in the majors. Hinch challenged, but a review of nearly three minutes upheld the ruling.
Astros: Rookie SS Carlos Correa was held out with a strained hamstring for the third straight game, despite his belief he was healed enough to play. Hinch was noncommittal about Sunday. “It’s a pretty simple decision. If there’s sensitivity in there and he’s showing any signs of discomfort, it’s a no. No different than parenting,” Hinch said.
Twins: Sano was back in the lineup after missing Friday because of a hamstring strain.
Astros: Lance McCullers (5-4, 3.12 ERA) pitches in the series finale Sunday. The 21-year-old McCullers was sharp in his previous turn, with eight strikeouts and two runs allowed in seven innings in his first start since being called back from the minors.
Twins: Ervin Santana (2-4, 6.05 ERA) takes the mound, trying to escape a concerning slump. He’s 0-4 in his last six turns, with an average of just over five innings finished and 33 runs allowed.